Guest Post - Getting the Right Man In: Journeys on the Managerial Merry-Go-Round

Daniel Storey, of Football365 and Sky Sports, deconstructs football's recruitment processes...

The Chase
Firstly, it would be foolish to even attempt to recruit a new manager without drawing up a shortlist of names.

The recruitment process is a two-way street. Managers (who should more readily be referred to as gaffers or bosses) can submit their CVs into the club, and it is usual for a chairman to announce the exact numbers of applications received – “Look how popular our job is!!!" they almost boast. A new PR tactic is to also release a feel-good news story about an application received from a six-year-old child, written in crayon (or from a Football Manager addict). In response, some will remark that “he’d probably do a better job than [insert hapless previous incumbent]".

There is no specific job site for football managers, but luckily they can all be found at the fairground on the Managerial Merry-Go-Round™, where average bosses can flutter their eyelashes at onlooking clubs. Seasoned managers know that stepping or climbing onto and from the MMGR is amateur: one must hop on/off.

The Selection
One of the perks of being a football manager is that they can throne themselves in a managerial hotseatWhile this has no connotation of temperature, we know only too well that a bad run will see them feeling the heat.

The cliché used upon appointment depends largely on the type of manager. Experienced or ageing players are journeymen, of course, but a journeyman manager is rare, usually instead referred to as a wise old head. If his appointment is underwhelming, he will inevitably have "a point to prove". Young managers,
meanwhile, will be fresh-faced or fearless - some may even warrant "breath of fresh air" status.

A returning manager will have unfinished business, and rather bizarrely aim to pick up where they left off. Given that they ‘left off’ by leaving the club, this could surely lead to a weird cycle of rejoining and leaving. The use of "coming home" depends largely on the self-inflated opinion the individual has of his popularity.

The Reveal
While new players are presented to or paraded in front of the media, managers are always unveiled, like a priceless Greek statue. The owner or chairman of the club will attempt to persuade cynics that the new boss is the right man for the job and will be looking to "take the club forward". 

The manager will then speak, and will almost immediately state that the job was too good to turn down (some may even go as far as to say that "it ticked all the right boxes"). Whether this refers to the club or his financial recompense is left unsaid. The club will be referred to as exciting and ambitious, but the greatest praise is reserved for the "passionate fans" (these are, of course, the twelfth man). For "passionate", we can read ‘hopelessly addicted’ (sorry, that should read long-suffering).

Initially, the aim will be to put down a marker but the use of feet will become evident and crucial - putting your foot down can be interchanged with stamping one’s authority, all in an attempt to hit the ground running, although in this last case feet may be replaced by wings to get off to a flyer.

Finally, new managers leave the press conference to enjoy their honeymoon period which will be declared over immediately after the first piece of bad news. One hopes that they can at least rely on an upturn in fortunes hailed as the "new manager effect", a mathematical formula that ensures that the manager will win his first game in charge.


A Brief History of Dubbing

Some football clichés appear to be invented by a secret committee - not unlike the shady Dubious Goals Panel - who are referred to only as "they". "Never go back, they say", erm, they say. Nobody listens. 

But "they" are also responsible for football's obsession with dubbing. Not the dubbing that cruelly denied John Wark his only line in Escape to Victory, but rather that of dubbing (or, alternatively, hailing) a player with some unhelpfully comparative praise.

They Have Dubbed Me "The New Ali Dia" - buy the T-shirt here
The New Maradona
The most frequent act of dubbing, so much so that it has its own dedicated Wikipedia page. The threshold for required similarity to the original Maradona is rather low, hence (apologies here, #footballhipsters) the dubbing of Juan Román Riquelme and, rather puzzlingly, that of former Middlesbrough starlet Carlos Marinelli. 

Lionel Messi has faced many understandable questions about his New Maradona dubbage, often choosing to laugh them off or at least acknowledge the flattery (footballers are often flattered by speculation, a quaint Jane Austen-esque football cliché) but it won't be long before The New Messis emerge to endure similar fawning.

The Maradona of...
This is a much more creative alternative to the previous act of dubbing, with a dash of humility too - this player, it implies, may not be Maradona's equal but, well, he's the best we can come up with, yeah? The list of Diego's regional variations is almost endless, but here are some highlights, listed in ascending order of absurdity:

  • Gheorghe Hagi - The Maradona of the Carpathians - understandable, and deservedly grand-sounding.
  • Emre Belözoğlu - The Maradona of the Bosphorus - already pushing it.
  • Saeed Al-Owairan - The Maradona of the Arabs - thanks to some pathetic Belgian defending.
  • Ali Karimi - The Maradona of Asia - bestowing dubmanship of an entire continent is just poor form.
  • Ostrava's Maradona - Milan Baros - Who? WHO dubbed him this?
  • Alan Judge - The Irish Messi - Terrace wit is to blame here, it seems.
  • Luciana Aymar - The Maradona of Hockey - Oh for f...
  • Cristian Levis - The Maradona of Basingstoke

Football is fond of flogging a dead horse (often to the tune of Sloop John B), and less glamorous dubbings are to be found everywhere. Ipswich Town signed Veliče Šumulikoski in 2008, their fans appetite whetted by his billing as "the Macedonian Steven Gerrard", although a penchant for frequently overhit crossfield passes was never established. Gianluca Vialli is attributed, perhaps libellously, with hailing new winger Gabriele Ambrosetti as "the Italian Ryan Giggs" during his time at Chelsea. Nowadays, the act of dubbing/hailing has rather lost its value, so keen are we to unearth The Next Gareth Bale before the original one reaches his mid-twenties.

Elsewhere, more poetic dubbings can be found. In a rare act of dub-on-dub violence, the old Maradona was a notable victim of Andoni Goikoetxea, who earned himself the fearsome moniker of The Butcher of Bilbao. The similarly uncompromising and no-nonsense Miguel Ángel Nadal was dubbed the "Beast of Barcelona", which was perhaps a bit much. Even football matches, such as the infamous Battle of Santiago, are not safe from the dubbers.

Yours in cliché,

The Brian Glanville of Zone 3.